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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Preserving your memories IV - Vinyl Album or Single Transfers

So you have that irreplaceable album that never made the leap to digital in the marketplace. Or maybe you have a tape or reel to reel of Grandma singing at the piano. You can now preserve these in a digital format which will be easy to manipulate, edit and share.

Today we will talk about transferring vinyl records to digital media files.

This is one painstaking and time consuming process if you want to do it right.

First you need a USB turntable or an older turntable adapted to your input card on your computer.

Next you need some kind of capture software that has some capacity to EQ, filter and process the captured digital audio files.

You may have seen the turntables that are offered with credit card statements or online. They look like old radios or consoles. BUYER BEWARE. Mechanically they are not accurate which may add rumble and hum to your tracks and in most cases they offer ceramic cartridges which are highly abrasive and less efficient compared to a traditional stylus. Don't waste your money on these rigs. Search the net for other solutions or go to a studio that offers a transfer service. In my opinion, if you want to do this on your own you will have to invest $150 or more on a new USB turntable and stay away from ceramic cartridges.

Once your software is running you have to clean your disc. Use a static free cloth and slowly move it from the centre of the record to the outside while the turntable is turning. Next you play it while capturing/recording the tracks with your sound device. 

You have to capture in real time. Some software will allow you to index your tracks on the fly and others will capture entire sides where you have to go into the software later and divide the side into the individual songs. It doesn't stop there. 

Once you have your sound recorded you may need to add noise reduction, filter out rumble and de- click if the album is old and scuffed up. All of this processing can add up to a lot of time. Remember too that each thing you do to "improve" the audio sacrifices something else. There is a lot of experimentation here. Be prepared to spend more than a couple of hours per record.

Most USB turntables do not have the 78 speed. In this case you playback the disc at 45 rpm and then do a speed conversion with the software you have. The results are kind of cool. It's a neat workaround.

I once had a really neat disk to convert. It was from a soldier overseas during WW II who went into one of the old recording booths to record an engraved 1 minute disk to send home to his mother. It was ra very small disc accorded as a 78 so I had to convert it using a pitch/speed plug-in with my software. Then I processed it using a de-click plug-in and noise filter. The result was quite gratifying. A little WW II history leapt out of the speakers at me. Very cool!

Once you have all of your album tracks recorded, processed and split then you have to burn your CD master using whatever software you prefer. 
Remember, if you have good gear, have lots of patience and good recording media you will get a decent result. If you are in a hurry the results will not be as nice as you would hope.

In the next instalments we will talk about transferring magnetic media formats into a digital format.

Thanks for reading. Remember, if you have questions or comments please feel free to add them. Also keep in mind that KEMEdia Studios offer these transfers services should you require them.

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Mike Reid can be heard approximately once a month on the Dave Fisher Show, weekends on CJAD 800 in Montreal. Mike and Dave talk about technology and new directions during these ten minute spots.

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